Capital punishment; the death penalty
Public support for, opposition to, and
|Fundamentalists||high level of support for death penalty||oppose death penalty|
|Other evangelicals||various positions||oppose death penalty|
|More likely shaped by:||concern over criminal behavior||perceptions of the law &criminal justice system|
In 2001, an ABC News/Washington Post Poll highlighted a serious deficiency of almost all public opinion polls. They typically a simple question: whether the subject is in favor of the death penalty or not. They rarely offer alternatives to execution in their polling questionnaires. One exception was a poll released on 2001-MAY-2. It showed a public ambivalence towards the continuation of the death penalty. When asked whether or not they supported the death penalty, the public responded 63% in favor. This is a major reduction in support from the 80% level, seven years previously. Of even greater potential importance is that if life without parole is offered as an option, response is a statistical dead heat: 46% favor the death penalty; 45% favor life without any chance at parole. The ABC News/Washington Post poll also determined that most American adults believe that:
- Among members of Protestant faith groups, 63% favor the death penalty; 32% are opposed:
- Among White evangelicals: 71% for / 25% against;
- Among White mainline christians: 66% for / 27% against;
- Among Black Protestants: 37% for / 58% against.
- Among Roman Catholics, whose denominational leaders strongly oppose the death penalty: 53% favor the death penalty while 42% are opposed.
- Among the "NOTAs" (those NOT Affiliated with a faith group) 48% favor the death penalty; 45% are opposed.
However, comparing 2011 and 2015 data, there has been a gradual decline in support and gradual rise in opposition to the death penalty. This may indicate increased value for life, increased awareness of the possibility of the system executing innocent people, and increases awareness that the death penalty does not have a deterrent effect on the homicide rate.
"... introduced S 2463, a bill which would immediately suspend executions in the United States while a national commission reviews the administration of the death penalty. The moratorium would bar execution of individuals sentenced under either state or federal statutes. Currently 38 states have death penalty statutes on the books."The bill did not proceed. 6
On 2000-JAN-31, Governor G.H. Ryan of Illinois announced a moratorium on executions in that state until after an administration review of the death penalty is completed. More details.
During 2000-SEP, The Texas Civil Rights Project issued a report which called for a moratorium on executions in that state until changes can be made to the system. They recommended:
- Changes to the selection process for defense attorneys. The American Bar Association has established standards in this area which require lawyers to have at least five years experience, and training in defense of capital cases.
- Defense attorneys should be paid at close to the market rates.
- Financial compensation should be guaranteed to anyone who has been wrongfully convicted.
- Prosecuting attorneys should be subject to lawsuits if they concealed evidence from the defense, knowingly used perjured testimony or knowingly used tainted evidence. They are currently immune from prosecution.
- Creation of a life-without-parole sentence option for capital cases.
- Allow jurors who have doubts about the fairness of the system to serve in capital cases.
- Not allowing crimes, that a defendant has been accused of but not convicted of, to be mentioned during sentencing hearings.
- Consideration of the use of two juries in capital cases: one to try the individual and the other to assign the sentence.
- Restoration of the right of habeas corpus.
- Reinstating the previous appeals legislation.
- Guarantee that the inmate receive a new lawyer for appeals in death cases.
- Guarantee DNA testing of evidence for any convict that requests it.
- Overhaul the Board of Pardons and Paroles' procedures.
- Alter legislation to ban the execution of persons who were minors at the time of the crime.
- Alter legislation to ban the execution of developmentally disabled persons.
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